food. family. life.

spaghetti with tuna

cucinadimammina_spaghetti_tuna_5.jpg - cucina di mammina

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite moments of the year. I adore lighted trees and the homes decorated so beautifully; walking into Mammina Loreta and Papa Pierino’s house and breathing in the delicious aromas of the infamous “Feast of the Seven Fishes” that are being prepared for our long-awaited meal.

This holiday tradition for my famiglia comes from the celebration of the “La Vigilia di Natale” or the night before Christmas as the long tradition of eating fish and seafood on Christmas Eve dates back when the Roman Catholic Church spoke of abstinence, which meant refraining from eating meat or poultry (not even eggs) on the days and nights leading to a religious holiday.

Our meal would always include, at the very least, seven, eight or sometimes even nine specific fishes that are traditional to Italy. The most famous dish is from the Southern Italians known as baccalà (salted cod fish). Mammina Loreta prepares this simply with garlic, olive oil and plenty of fresh parsley.

The custom of celebrating with a simple fish such as baccalà is directly related to the cooking and recipes in the impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried calamari, pasta with seafood sauce, fried cod and flounder as well as some sort of baked, stuffed whole fish along with shrimp, lobster tail and scallops would always be featured on our famiglia’s Christmas Eve table.

One of my favorite pasta dishes that originated on Christmas Eve; and is now one that I make all year; perfect for busy weeknights when hunger fights my will to cook a more time-consuming meal.cucinadimammina_spaghetti_tuna_2

My dish is spaghetti with tuna, using canned Italian tuna in olive oil and other simple ingredients, all of which are easily found in your pantry (or should be from now on), creating a fabulous dish that comes together in minutes to satisfy everyone.

Try this recipe for yourself and I highly suggest adding red chili flake heat at the end to your taste preference or simply enjoy it just as is.

spaghetti al tonno


3-4 cans of solid white tuna packed in olive oil (I prefer the Genova brand from Italy)

1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut into chunks

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

capers in brine

fresh italian flat leaf parsley

1 box of imported italian spaghetti (use a brand that you prefer)

1 whole lemon, zested and juiced

ground red chili flakes to taste

Place a large stockpot of water to boil and salt the water. In large nonstick skillet, add the canned tuna (drain most of the oil from the cans first) and break the pieces up a bit.

Drizzle about 1/3 cup or more of olive oil into the tuna and add the chopped garlic to the mix.cucinadimammina_spaghetti_tuna_1

Let this cook on medium low heat until you start to smell the aroma of the garlic and the tuna is tender and sizzling a bit. Remove from heat and set aside (remove the garlic from the mix and discard.)

When the water comes to a full boil, add the spaghetti and stir immediately so they do not stick. Continue to cook and stir until they are “al dente” to your taste.

Reserve some of the cooking water (in a bowl) and set aside. Drain the pasta and set aside with a light drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Return the large skillet with the cooked tuna mixture back to medium heat; add the drained cooked spaghetti and mix well as it comes to heat.

Heat this mixture slowly, stirring often while adding a bit of the cooking pasta water to create a sauce that will coat the pasta well. Once this is incorporated remove from the heat and add to your taste preference, the capers, lemon juice, lemon zest, large bunch of freshly chopped parsley leaves and the chili flakes to taste.cucinadimammina_spaghetti_tuna_3.jpg

Note: Many people like to add grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese to this dish at the finish, it is quite common in Italy to see a variety of fish dishes made with cheese. I happen to prefer this dish without cheese as I love to savor the tuna and seasonings without the richness. Please do as your taste buds dictate as there really is no right or wrong here.

Serve this pasta dish immediately along with a fresh green vegetable salad of thinly sliced fennel, heart of palm, arugula, romaine, cukes and tomatoes dressed simply with red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt to taste.

Make this recipe for the holidays and mark this recipe as one of your go-to meals for those busy weekday evenings with the family.

Buon Appetito!

Note: Photography provided by Annette L. Venditti & Carina A. Favale

{My famiglia and I wish you and yours a very happy holiday and a wonderful happy 2014 new year. May your home be filled with plenty of laughter, delicious food and drink for your family and friends to enjoy in peace and joy.}cucinadimammina_spaghetti_tuna_4.jpg

Buon Natale e un felice Anno Nuovo








%d bloggers like this: